HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Land O’ Lakes
The name Land O’ Lakes did not exist when this map
was published in 1941.
Some pictures of Land O’ Lakes are here.
Dr. Susan MacManus talked about the history of Land O’ Lakes and showed lots of photos from her two books about
the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes area on Sept. 28, 2013. A video of her entire presentation is here.
The historic marker reads as follows:
LAND O’ LAKES
Following removal of the Seminoles, resettlement of this
area began in the 1880’s with establishment of a
stagecoach relay station between Brooksville and Tampa.
Several small communities later developed in the
vicinity, most of them lumber and turpentine towns along
the railroads. In this general area were: Big Cypress,
Disston, Drexel, Ehren, Fivay Junction, Godwin, Mexico,
Myrtle-Denham, Pleasant Plains, Shingleton, Stemper and
Tucker. By the 1930’s citrus cultivation was the area’s
principal industry. With consolidation of schools and
post offices, and following a public contest, the
community was named Land O’ Lakes on September, 1950.
The name Land O’ Lakes now applies to an area which earlier
consisted of numerous small towns.
Hernando County school board records from 1877-78 show that a
school existed at Pleasant Plains. The school may have been in
existence earlier; school records before that time were lost in
a fire. In 1879 a post office was established at Pleasant
Plains, although it operated only briefly.
In 1883 a post office was established at Diston, although it
was originally in Hillsborough County. It was renamed Drexel in
In 1893 a post office was established at Myrtle. A school
existed at Myrtle by 1895.
In 1898 a post office was established at Shingleton.
On July 10, 1925, the Dade City Banner reported:
Development aggregating several million dollars was
announced Friday afternoon immediately after the sale of 640
acres of land including the town site of Denham to a syndicate
of New York capitalists. The transaction represented $480,000
and was handled through the firm of Knight Bros. of Tampa. The
New York syndicate is headed by Joseph B. Lowndes of the Joseph
B. Lowndes Real Estate Company, together with L. Umanoff,
president of the Lee-Nest Construction Company, Jacob Wielenken,
president of the Tappscott Construction Company, and Adolph
Herzog, all of Jamaica, N. Y. Property purchased by the New York
men lies on both sides of State Road 5 and Highland Road No. 9,
at Denham. It includes a portion of the shores of Lake Padgett,
said to be one of the prettiest deep cypress lakes in Florida.
It is served by the Tampa Northern railroad, which company, it
is said, has agreed to erect a new station in keeping with the
development. According to Joseph B. Lowndes, spokesman for the
purchasers, a modern town, high class in every respect, will
spring up upon the shores of Lake Padgett. He expects actual
work to begin within 90 flays. He announced yesterday afternoon
that the name of the town would probably be changed from that of
Denham to one more appropriate; that a hotel and club house,
together with 100 dwellings would be among the first of the
operations. The developers plan to bring their own organizations
from the north to accomplish the work.
According to MacManus, Drexel had a Baptist church, Church of
God, railroad station and agent, and water tower, but no
cemetery. The Drexel Missionary Baptist Church was founded in
the fall of 1929 by Rev. E. D. Vining and Mr. and Mrs. H. C.
Douglas. The church met in the Drexel schoolhouse. In March 1931
it moved to the YMCA hall on State Road 5. The property on which
the current First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes stands was
purchased in October 1931. On April 3, 1932 the mission was
organized into a church and chose the name Drexel Missionary
Baptist of Ehren Florida. In 1949 the church changed its name to
Land O’ Lakes Baptist Church. Then in October 1959 the current
name of First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes was chosen.
(Information from the web site
of First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes.)
The first site of the Drexel Church of God was on U. S. 41 just
north of the old overpass. Material from an old Ehren school
building was used to construct the church, which later became a
TV repair shop. Rev. Willie R. Sanders organized the
congregation. Established in 1938, it is the predecessor to the
Land O’ Lakes Church of God.
According to MacManus, “When the one-room school at Myrtle got
too crowded, a decision was made to build a larger, two-room
structure to be named Myrtle-Denham School. Mike Riegler, a
school district trustee at the time, donated five acres for the
school. While the Myrtle-Denham school was being built, the
younger students attended school in the Lake View United
Brethren Church building while the older ones continued studying
at the Myrtle School. Myrtle-Denham School, built in 1934, was
located on S. R. 54 just east of U. S. 41. It functioned until
1948 when its students were transferred to the newly opened
Sanders Memorial School in Land O’ Lakes. The old school became
a residence, then was torn down in 1997.”
During World War II a tourist attraction known as Dupree
Gardens was in operation.
Memorial Elementary School opened in 1948. It was built to
replace smaller, wooden schools at Myrtle, Denham, Tucker, and
In 1949 the name Land O’ Lakes came into existence. A
discussion of the origin (and spelling) of the name Land O’
Lakes is here.
Land O’ Lakes High School opened on
July 3, 1975. Also in the summer of 1975 the Pasco County school
system opened new offices on U. S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes, near the
geographic center of the county. Until that time, administrators
had worked in several locations in Dade City, Zephyrhills, and
New Port Richey.
Land O’ Lakes experienced rapid population growth beginning in
On Oct. 27, 2012, presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at a rally at Land O’ Lakes High School.
The intersection of U. S. 41 and State Road 54 on
May 15, 2006.
A Beautiful Suburb of Two Cities (1927)
DENHAM-MYRTLE, LOCATED MIDWAY BETWEEN
DADE CITY AND TAMPA; TRUCKING AND POULTRY SECTION
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Apr. 22,
By Carl H. Rerick, Sec. Pasco Co. Chamber of Commerce
Without definite bounds, but lying alongside the
Hillsborough-Pasco county line for several miles, and
intersected by State Road No. 5 and the Wesley Chapel and Odessa
roads, is a part of Pasco county known as Denham-Myrtle. A
feature of the section is the numerous lakes that dot the
landscape so that nearly every resident has a lake, or shares
one with a neighbor. They are lakes which maintain a steady
height and have a modifying action on the temperature. Everyone
there claims that when there is a cold snap the temperature is
several degrees warmer there than in the surrounding country.
The soil is adapted to the growing of oranges and grapefruit,
and considerable of it here and there is ideal for trucking.
It is strictly a country community with Lutz, across the county
line, its nearest town and postoffice. By paved road it averages
about 18 miles from the court house in Tampa, which is its
It is also suburban to Tampa in that much of the real estate is
owned by Tampa men, and Tampa people come here for country
occupation or recreation.
There are fifteen bearing groves in Denham-Myrtle, aggregating
650 acres. Fourteen of these range from five to forty acres,
while one of 400 acres is the property of A. C. Clewis,
president of the First Savings and Trust Company.
These groves went through the cold weather of early January
exceedingly well. The writer had the pleasure of viewing the
Kraemer grove, with its manager and former owner, John Pursley.
There are ten acres of Lou Gim Gong orange trees with the fruit
on the trees — approximately 1,000 boxes, and said to be 80 per
cent bright. Mr. Pursley fired his grove the coldest night,
which accounts in part for saving this crop, which will surely
bring the owner a good price.
R. M. Leonard, real estate broker and owner of several beauty
parlors in Tampa, is a trucker and country gentleman in Denham.
He owns Lake Como, a beautiful body of water covering about 40
acres, and his comfortable and commodious home is but few feet
from its shore. Here he and his family and guests have a good
bathing beach, and are to have the best of fishing, as Mr.
Leonard has arranged with the fish commission for stocking it
with fish. Mr. Leonard has 115 acres of land, besides that in
Lake Como, and it not only surrounds this lake, but extends on
to Lake Moss.
Mr. Leonard bought this property as unimproved land three years
ago, and has already spent a considerable fortune clearing,
building and converting it into the beautiful country estate
which he intends it to be. He and his neighbor, Mrs. Pursley,
are off the state highway and have succeeded in getting a county
road opened and graded, but are blocked by the Seaboard, which
has so far refused to permit a crossing of its tracks.
Mr. Leonard has trucked on forty acres the last two years
successfully and profitably. Last year he sold 25,000 pounds of
sweet potatoes to a Tampa chain store and received three-fourths
of a cent per pound above the price this corporation could have
bought elsewhere. Among his crops this spring are 23 acres of
Hastings Prolific corn, the earliest planted now about 30 inches
high, three acres of watermelons and 400 hills of Honey Dew
Melons. As few have succeeded here with this latter delicacy,
his success will be noted with interest.
There is an acre plot of blackberries from which he expects to
get 7,000 quarts of berries this summer. Mr. Leonard has a
strawberry patch near Lakeland, and he will plant five acres on
his home estate where he expects them to do equally well.
A rosebed set in January looks as if it had been growing a
year, and Mrs. Leonard keeps the house supplied with roses from
However, if one asks for the leading farmer and trucker in this
vicinity, he is likely to be sent to J. H. Sinclair, who has a
farm bordering on Worthington Gardens. Mr. Sinclair came here
from Tampa also six years ago, and has made a success with
vegetables, eggs, poultry, and pork. As he is on a paved road
from which his garden is in view, much of his market comes to
his front door. However, he has a regular poultry and egg route
in the city, and prides himself on holding his trade through
quality and service. Mr. Sinclair has several rows of strawberry
plants, planted six weeks ago, that are perfection in their
thriftiness, and will supply the plants for a considerable
acreage. Berry growers, looking for location, would do well to
see these plants and the soil in which they are growing, and
which can be duplicated here and there in this section.
The poultry industry is in its infancy in Denham but there are
enough poultry folks interested to organize a poultry
association with M. M. Pickett, president, and Mrs. A. E. Hill
Mr. Pickett dropped the trade of lithographer in Chicago to
produce eggs in Pasco county, although he is just within the
county line, and gives Deer Lake as his residence. Mr. Pickett
is ingenious and handy with tools, and his poultry houses are
well worth a visit from any poultryman receptive to ideas. His
principal house is 14 x 60 feet. He uses cypress poles for
roosts, fastened together in sections, which can be lifted by
pulleys for cleaning the floor. He has dispensed with dropping
boards, which he considers unnecessary in this climate, but the
floor is scrupulously cleaned every morning. The runs are made
attractive to the hens by leaving the second growth oak and
palmetto for shade and protection against hawks.
As to poultry being profitable, Mr. Pickett cites that in March
he got 2,700 eggs from 120 hens, now fourteen months old, and
have been laying all winter, and which promise to do better this
month. Out of a lot of 200 baby chicks he raised, he sold 64
fryers for $74, which paid for the baby chicks and part of their
feed, and he has between 60 and 70 nice pullets. We believe this
is the same lot he told us he bought of the Budanna Poultry
Farms at New Port Richey, and the pullets are now laying at four
The Pickett Poultry Farm consists of six acres lying on the
east side of Thirteen Mile Run and near Lake Bird. Cypress form
a wind-break on three sides. The soil is sandy loam of a
fertility that will raise all of the green feed for the poultry
yard, and supply the family with fruits and vegetables.
Mr. Pickett is going it alone now, but he expects to have the
assistance of one or more of his sons as the business grows.
Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Hill, former Hoosiers who have lived here
several years, recently built an 80-foot poultry house and
20-foot breeding house at their home place, about a half-mile
west of the Denham station, and are starting in the fryer
business. This spring they have sustained a heavy loss of baby
chicks which they had bought from different hatcheries, but when
they find the cause and rectify it they will undoubtedly do
well, as they have a well equipped plant for the business.
A. H. Zimmerman, general manager for Fugazzi Brothers of Tampa
and Clearwater, is the owner of the Camp Lake Farm,
distinguished by its Dutch windmill house. W. H. Higgins, a
Tampa musician, lives on the place, and the two have about a
thousand birds in partnership.
The above, we understand, are the leading poultry raisers in
the Denham-Myrtle section, and a visit to their plants is
sufficient to show that this popular branch of husbandry is well
suited here alone, or with citrus growing or trucking.
Land O’ Lakes celebrates the 50th anniversary of a vote at a Denham Drexel Civic Association meeting that changed the area’s name.
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on June 14, 1999. Thanks to James Dennison and Madonna Jervis Wise for the article.
By LORIE JEWELL
LAND O’ LAKES. Fifty years ago, the ayes had it. Land O’ Lakes was born by popular vote at a June 13, 1949 meeting called by the Denham-Drexel Civic Association. It would be another year though, before the state recognized the name and the federal government opened a Land O’ Lakes post office.
Before the name change, the area splintered into small communities, including Ehren, Drexel, Denham, Myrtle and Fivay.
The area was going through a growth spurt. It was becoming home to more people looking for a quiet, rural lifestyle. It was a popular vacation destination for visitors from the “North, many lured by the Dupree Gardens.
There were First Baptist Church and Drexel Church of God, a PTA, a Home Demonstration Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 551, and a new school, Sanders Elementary.
It was time to bring residents together into a community with one name, the civic association decided.
Selma Wells attended the meeting and cast a vote.
Wells, nearing her 91st birthday, still lives on Ehren Cutoff property she and her husband, Bascom, bought when they moved here from Detroit in 1941.
Bascom Wells ran a grocery story on the corner for about 25 years, she said. After he sold the building, businesses came and went. It housed a lawn mower shop when it caught fire and burned to the ground last year, Wells said. Her husband wasn’t alive to see it destroyed, though. He died 15 years ago, she said.
Shortly after arriving, Wells got involved with the Home Demonstration Club. She was the group’s secretary.
“There were only six or seven of use women in it,” she said. We got together at each other’s homes and learned about taking care of a home.”
Ginny McCumber, daughter of longtime schoolteacher, Gertrude Godwin, now lived near Orlando. She was 27 at the time of the meeting.
“I don’t remember many people not wanting the name (Land O’ Lakes)”, McCumber said. “The biggest discussion was over how to spell it.”
When she married her husband, Russell, McCumber’s parents gave the couple a piece of property on what is now School Road.
They later offered it for Sanders Elementary, built in 1948.
The civic association meeting was in the school, McCumber said.
Not everyone favored the name change.
Elizabeth MacManus, born and raised in a home overlooking Goose Neck Lake, just east of Collier Parkway, didn’t attend the civic association meeting. She was a young mother, busy with her daughter, Susan, a toddler at the time.
Susan MacManus is now a political science professor at the University of South Florida. She and her husband, Cameron, have another daughter and son, both of whom are doctors in other states.
Elizabeth MacManus, 76, and Susan recently wrote what many longtime residents consider the definitive history of the area. The book, “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters and Crackers-Life in Early Lutz and Central Pasco,” was published last year by the University of Tampa Press.
Mike Riegler, MacManus’ father, was the first permanent settler of what became Lutz.
At one time, Lutz’s northern boundary ran up to State Rad 52 in Gowers Corner, she said. In time it dropped south to Lake Patience Road and eventually a few miles south of State Road 54.
She still prefers to think of herself as a Lutz resident.
“I was born in Lutz,” she said. “I can’t help it if they chopped it off.” Her siblings, George Riegler, Gloria Herms and Ann Avriett, are still living in the area. Susan MacManus lives within walking distance.
Milford Joshua (M.J.) Dennison was vice president of the civic association. He raised his family in a house that once stood at Livingston Road and State Road 54. That area was known by a stagecoach rough that went through it, Myrtle-Denham Cut-off, said Dennison’s son, James.
Until his death two years ago at age 77, Dennison still referred to his hometown as Denham.
“Most people, even though they voted for it (Land O’ Lakes), they still used the old stage coach name,” James Dennison said.
It’s unclear where the name Land O’ Lakes came from. Two people received $25 checks for submitting winning entries: Edna Blair and an unknown man, MacManus’ book says.
Some say the name was borrowed from the Minneapolis-based Land O’ Lakes butter company. Others say it was a reflection of the multitude of lakes in the area. Both explanations have merit.
Melt Godwin, 59, was born and raised in the community once known as Ehren. The family home was on Ehren Cutoff, next door to what is now the Pasco Food Bank. His mother, Ila Mae, taught at the Drexel School with Gertrude Godwin. His father, Melt Godwin, Sr., was a longtime commissioner.
“I was there the night they named it,” Godwin said. “The mothers were passing out these little pieces of paper. There weren’t any copy machines back then, so everyone was told to buy the butter and cut the name off the package to vote.”
Godwin said his parents voted in favor of the name. It made sense to them, and most often because of the watery region.
“There used to be an overpass on 41, just south of the high school,” Godwin said. “If you stood at the top of it, you could see nine different lakes.” In the dry season the area took on a nickname. We called it Land O’ Ponds,” Godwin said with a laugh.
The Fourth of July celebration program from 1949 reports the area’s change to the name Land O’ Lakes.
Central Pasco Full Of Historic Sites (2003)
The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on April
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
LAND O’ LAKES - Even before Florida achieved statehood in 1845,
settlers ventured into the wilderness of the eastern part of
what later became Pasco County.
Next, Pasco’s coast beckoned newcomers.
Central Pasco was slower to be settled. But plenty of folks now
know about the area’s virtues, and it has become the fastest
growing part of Pasco.
The influx of subdivisions is crowding out historic sites that
dotted the once isolated countryside. But plenty of history is
left, with several sites listed in the Pasco County Historical
Preservation Committee’s book The Historic Places of Pasco
County. An Internet site even suggests traversing the
“Land O’ Lakes Historical Trail.”
The preservation committee and the Pasco County Commission in
1981 dedicated a marker commemorating Land O’ Lakes' history.
Placed at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center on U.S. 41 North,
the marker relates how settlement of the area began in the 1850s
after the establishment of a stagecoach relay station between
Brooksville and Tampa.
The land had opened up to settlement soon after the Seminoles
who once roamed the forest were forced by an 1830 U.S.
government order to leave for reservations west of the
By the late 1840s, a Hernando County businessman operated the
Concord Stage Line, cutting through the center of what is now
Pasco County. Relay stops were established where fresh teams
could replace exhausted horses.
One station was located at what was called 26-Mile House.
Before long, a few log cabins were built around the relay
station and a small community developed.
A Community Called Ehren
The stage line stopped running about 1856. But with vast stands
of timber, sawmills dotted the countryside. One of those was
Ehren Pine Sawmill, established near the 26-Mile House by
Fredrick and Louis Muller of Germany along what is now County
Ehren Pine Sawmill employed about 100 workers and had homes for
some to live in. Others owned property near the mill in the
community that became known as Ehren.
Another historical marker is in Ehren Cemetery, located off
County Road 583, called Ehren Cutoff. The marker explains that
“Ehren” means “place of honor” in the Mullers’ native German.
[However, according to MacManus, Frederick Ernest Müller named
Ehren for his hometown in Germany.]
A post office opened in Ehren on Jan. 17, 1890. It burned and
was rebuilt several times before closing in 1950. At one time it
was listed in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” as the smallest post
office in the country.
Ehren Cemetery, with graves dating to the early 1900s, includes
several homemade tombstones. Impressions of leaves are made in
the concrete, with names scribbled into cement. Osteen,
McDaniels and Jones are early family names found in the
By 1910, Ehren boasted a hotel and school, along with the
With the sawmills that dotted central Pasco came a need for a
railroad to transport the lumber to market.
In 1907, Tampa Southern Railroad put down tracks along the old
stagecoach route. A station was built at what is now U.S. 41 and
State Road 54. It was called Denham Station, named after the
train’s fireman [actually named for the general manager of the
Tampa Northern Railroad--jm].
Several other small communities developed along the railroad
line, including Drexel.
Drexel originally was named Diston, a misspelling of Hamilton
Disston, the Philadelphia entrepreneur who rescued the state
when it was on the verge of bankruptcy by buying 4 million
acres. Edmund Dunne, who brokered the land deal, founded the
Catholic Colony of San Antonio in east Pasco.
A post office was opened at Diston in 1883. It was renamed
Drexel in 1888 and closed for good in 1902.
Drexel was located west of today’s U.S. 41 at Drexel and Lake
Butter And Lots Of Lakes
The entire area was known as Denham-Drexel until Sept. 1, 1950,
when it was officially changed to Land O’ Lakes.
The usual story has it a contest was held to select the name.
Three people suggested Land O’ Lakes, appropriate for an area
with 50 lakes within 18 square miles.
Two of those proposing that name were a tourist from Michigan
and a woman named Sis Hahs Kerns, who wrote community news
stories and distributed copies herself. The Hahs family had
moved to the area from Fredericktown, Mo., in 1914.
Also suggesting the name was real estate agent M.H. Sears, who
brought butter with the popular Land O’ Lakes brand to the
Sears' real estate office at 5110 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., now home
to Land O’ Lakes Realty, is listed on the historical trail
compiled by Steve Rajtar of the Florida Trail Association. His
Land O’ Lakes trail is on the Web site
www.reocities.com/krdvry/florida.html Other structures listed as
historic include the Clark House, 21538 Hopson Road. The
residence dates to about 1919. Its windows are noteworthy for
their novel design, according to The Historic Places of
William J. and Maude Clark came to Land O’ Lakes in 1933 and
paid $10 a month for the property. It’s now owned by their
daughter Emma Lou Clark Harvey.
The Hale house, 21846 Vagts Lane, was the large estate home of
Arthur B. Hale. He was appointed chairman of the state road
board in 1937 by Gov. Fred Cone.
Born in 1888 in Tennessee, Hale moved in 1907 to Tampa, where
he was a mechanical engineer. He also worked in refrigeration
with the Tampa Ice Co. and later owned Hale and Buerke Electric
During World War II, Hale headed the War Production Board in
Tampa. He died in 1942 at 54.
Hale Road, off U.S. 41, is named for him. The house is now
owned by the estate of August Vagts.
The Riegler house, at 2506 Collier Parkway, is obscured from
public view but still stands as tribute to George “Mike”
Riegler, who established the first citrus nursery and grove in
what is now Land O’ Lakes.
Riegler, a native of Germany, came to Florida and was the first
permanent settler of the new town developed by North Tampa Land
Co. and originally called North Tampa, now Lutz, settling there
He soon moved to Pasco County, near 20-Mile Level Road, and
established the citrus nursery and grove. His nursery provided
trees he had budded to stock raised from the seed of rough
lemon. The budwood came from eight trees he purchased from Glen
St. Mary Nurseries, one of the oldest in Florida, established in
1882 near Jacksonville.
The house is now owned by Riegler’s granddaughter, Susan
MacManus, a political science professor at the University of
South Florida and an author. Included in her publications is the
560-page “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers” that she
and her mother, Elizabeth Riegler MacManus, wrote on life in
early Lutz and central Pasco.
Sanders Memorial School, 5126 School Road, was built with a
$50,000 bond to replace the two-room Drexel School. The old
school became the lunchroom and the “new” facility was finished
in time for the 1948 academic year.
The school was the vision of Judge James Wilton Sanders, who
served as principal of Zephyrhills High School before his tenure
as superintendent of schools from 1912-20.
A third historical marker was placed in the Land O’ Lakes area
last year at the site of Dupree Gardens.
The 1940s tourist attraction originally was intended as a place
for Tampa lawyer William Dupree to hunt and relax.
Located east of what was then State Road 5, now U.S. 41, and
Ehren Cutoff, Dupree built a log cabin and spent his days
planting an exotic garden of flowers, fruit trees and palms.
The result was so beautiful that Dupree’s friends persuaded him
to open the 25 acres to the public on Dec. 1, 1940.
The gardens eventually closed, and Dupree sold the property in
the early 1950s, with some of the land developed as home sites
and a parcel that included Dupree Lake opened as a nudist camp.
Some 400 acres were citrus groves. The lodge was converted into
a private residence.
Last year, a Tampa company announced plans to build 1,100
homes, plus some commercial space, on 471 acres that included